“The government treats business aviation like a rich man's toy,” said an Indian business jet operator speaking to AIN on condition of anonymity. The comment neatly summarizes the context for the continuing obstacles to business aviation growth in a country where largely positive economic conditions should be driving a major uptick in expansion of the industry. But with no clear policy framework, India’s business and general aviation community is being stifled by limited infrastructure, regulatory hurdles and high taxation. The latest trends indicate owners are increasingly shying away from purchasing aircraft.
This is what has prompted India’s Business Aircraft Operators Association (BAOA) to present a 50-item legislative wish list to the country’s ministry of aviation. The latest obstacle thrown in business aviation’s way is a new requirement that the ministry has to approve each and every aircraft purchase by specific model type. BAOA sees this move as having brought the private aviation sector into the approval quagmire already retarding growth in the country’s airline sector.
“There is a need to delink the general aviation acquisition process [from] commercial aviation,” BAOA president Rohit Kapur told AIN. Some Indian buyers are believed to have gone into default on aircraft purchase contracts awaiting the ministry’s acquisition committee to meet, which it has not done for the past five months.
Regulatory matters to be addressed include day-to-day issues such as removal of the seven-day notice period for foreign aircraft to land in India and approval processes for the foreign pilots needed by the industry to make up for the shortfall caused by restrictions on flight training.
Meanwhile, lack of parking infrastructure remains a concern. A surcharge of over 30 to 40 times more than the standard parking fees imposed by the Mumbai International Airport on non-Mumbai based private aircraft for overstaying tight time slots from July 1 last year led BAOA to file a legal petition that is due to receive its final hearing on February 22. “You can’t charge such huge amounts of penalty when there is no alternative to parking,” said Kapur. Approximately 50 percent of India’s corporate jet fleet is parked in Mumbai. Delhi International Airport has not allotted specific parking slots for business aviation in the past five years, said Kapur.